MPs have called for an urgent financial support package for theatre during a debate in parliament, as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirms discussions with the treasury are ongoing.
The debate took place on June 25 in response to 11 petitions, all calling for more government support for sectors including the arts, events, childcare providers and aviation.
Miles Croxford started the petition calling for more support to the arts, in particular music and theatre, which has received more than 160,000 signatures.
MPs also called for a “clear plan” for the reopening of theatres. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has since unveiled a five-step roadmap for the reopening of theatres. However, no dates have been specified for when each step can begin.
The debate in the House of Commons opened with a speech from Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, Theresa Villiers, who described the future of regional theatres as “perilous”.
She said: “As well as considering further funding support for those sectors, we must have a clear plan to get theatre open and get events starting again.”
Villiers also called for more support for theatre workers who fall between the gaps of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
Green Party MP for Brighton Caroline Lucas called for a dedicated programme of support for the events, cultural and creative industries.
Lucas said: “Failing to directly support the creative sector puts 16,000 jobs at risk in our city alone and £1.5 billion in turnover.
“The consequences for the UK as a whole will be equally devastating, including for our identity as a nation, which is inextricably bound up in cultural innovation.”
She added: “I therefore call on ministers to introduce urgent life-support measures as other European countries have done. Germany, for example, has invested in a €50 billion rescue package. We need a similar cultural sector hardship relief fund, saving live music venues, grassroots theatres, arts centres, community pubs and any space that is a vital hub of culture and social interaction in our communities.”
Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich Matthew Pennycook also pressed for a financial support package.
He said: “The culture secretary told the Evening Standard on June 8 that a package of support was imminent. Yet weeks later nothing has materialised. That industry desperately needs more help.”
Others who called for more government support for theatres included Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park Sarah Olney and Conservative MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond.
Responding on behalf of DCMS, under secretary of state for Sport, Tourism and Heritage Nigel Huddleston, said the government had “provided a wide a unparalleled level of financial support during the pandemic to help workers in every sector and every region of the UK”.
“But we knew as we entered lockdown as part of our battle against this disease we would need a number of targeted interventions to protect jobs and businesses in some of our most beloved and hardest hit sectors, including those mentioned in the petitions. We’ve had a good and thorough debate on those sectors today and working groups have been set up by various departments to work on the path for recovery and identify what further support my be required, and discussions with the Treasury are taking place,” he added.